Federal Legislative Update for June 4, 2010
Congress has been out of session this week for the Memorial Day recess. The Senate will return on Monday , June 7; the House will return on Tuesday, June 8.
At this writing, no legislative program has been announced for either chamber, but the Senate next week is expected to consider the unemployment and tax benefit extenders bill, which the House has approved.
According to CongressDaily, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said Thursday that he hopes to take a comprehensive energy bill to the Senate floor in July and has asked committee chairs to provide legislative language relating to the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico for inclusion in the measure.
The House next week may consider the FY10 supplemental appropriations bill to support the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and disaster relief (H.R. 4899). The Senate approved its version of the measure on May 27, but the House bill awaits mark-up in the Appropriations Committee, which was postponed prior to recess.
Education Jobs Legislation
The Senate supplemental bill does not include the $23 billion education jobs package or $5.6 billion to cover the projected shortfall in the Pell Grant program. The measure being developed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey (D-WI) is expected to include both provisions, but public higher education would not be included in the education jobs bill, nor would the state maintenance of effort (MOE) provision apply to higher education. The latter provision could leave public institutions vulnerable to cuts as states strive to meet the K-12 MOE requirement.
UW System President Reilly has weighed in with Chairman Obey's office regarding the importance of including the $23 billion educating jobs package and $5.6 billion to cover the projected shortfall in the Pell Grant program when the House considers supplemental appropriations legislation. Chancellors and campuses have received the following message regarding reaching out to your House Member in advance of consideration of the measure:
As you may know, Congress is now in recess, which gives Members time to be in their congressional districts to hold meetings and hear from constituents. Congress will return to D.C. on June 8 (votes postponed until 6:30 p.m.).
During the recess, you are encouraged to reach out to your Member of Congress on the importance of including an "education jobs" measure and necessary Pell funds in the FY2010 supplemental appropriations bill. While indications in the press and other media outlets forecast that the jobs measure is dead for now, there continues to be others who think that it is still a possibility.
Last week, the Senate passed its version of the supplemental spending bill by a vote of 67 to 28. The Senate bill does not provide for either education jobs or Pell funds, which means that House legislation represents the only opportunity to include these much-needed resources. The version of the supplemental bill that was slated to be marked up by the House Appropriations Committee, and postponed prior to the recess, includes $5.7 billion for a projected shortfall in the Pell Grant program, as well as $23 billion for education, mostly to save and create jobs. While the $23 billion in the House bill is limited to public elementary and secondary education, such funds would have an indirect benefit for public higher education as they would alleviate some of the fiscal pressures currently faced by states. Furthermore, ensuring that the education jobs provisions are included in the House bill would allow an opportunity to possibly expand the language to include public universities and colleges as the legislative process advances.
Please consider the following talking points when talking to your Member:
• Currently there is a $5.5 billion funding gap in the Pell Grant program for fiscal year 2010 which threatens to cut the maximum Pell Grant to $2,840 -- a nearly 50% cut;
• Because all Pell Grants are based upon the maximum award, almost every eligible student (students with the greatest financial need) would receive significantly less financial aid if the gap is not filled;
• The 13 UW universities and UW Colleges' two-year campuses are being asked to absorb $250 million in cuts for the 2009-11 biennium.
• This is at a time when enrollment has increased at UW four-year campuses from 175,056 to 178,999 (3,859 or 2.2% from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009). UW Colleges' enrollment increased from 13,275 to 13,789 (514 or 3.9% from Fall 2008 to Fall 2009).
• Over the past year, pay increases for faculty and staff have been rescinded, and the state has mandated 16 days of furloughs over two years.
• Support for this legislation is important, especially during this period of economic transition and change, and would provide much-needed resources for public education entities, including public higher education.
America COMPETES Legislation
After two previous failed attempts, the House of Representatives on May 28 approved the America COMPETES Act reauthorization bill ( H.R. 5116 ). The vote was 262 to 150, with all Democrats and 17 Republicans voting in favor of the measure (Congressman Petri and Congressman Sensenbrenner voted no; Congressman Ryan did not vote.)
The Senate Commerce Committee is expected to take up its own version of the bill later this month, with the goal of Senate floor action before the July 4 recess. In order to secure Republican support, the measure is likely to be a streamlined reauthorization without the additional provisions in the House bill.
H.R. 5116 is a five-year, $84 billion bill that authorizes significant funding increases for the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Department of Energy Office of Science. It also reauthorizes the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy and increases support for undergraduate and graduate education programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. The bill follows on the original America COMPETES Act—which expires at the end of FY10—which was approved with bipartisan support and signed into law in 2007. The original legislation was prompted by recommendations from the National Academies' report, "Rising Above the Gathering Storm."
UW System President Kevin Reilly and a majority of the UW System Board of Regents sent a letter to Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-IL), and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) in support of passage of the DREAM Act of 2009, either as stand-alone legislation or as part of comprehensive immigration reform. The legislation has the strong backing of Wisconsin Senator Herb Kohl and Senator Russ Feingold.
If you have questions regarding federal matters, please feel free to contact Kris Andrews, Assistant Vice President for Federal Relations, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 608-263-3362. (AAU and the UW System Office of Federal Relations contributed to this report.)